Following Ms. Myer’s presentation, the floor was opened to questions and comments. City Council Member Steve Levin, and representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and State Assembly Member Joan Millman, all objected to the process by which the RFPs were developed and issued, to the haste of the proceedings, and to the lack of public participation. Levin asked why only two proposals were received when 1,400 organizations had received requests. Borough President Marty Markowitz (who was uncharacteristically reticent when asked by Ms. Myer if he wanted to add to her opening remarks) replied that over 3,000 notices of the RFP for redevelopment of the Loew’s Theater were sent out, but only three responses were received. Millman’s representative asked why the issue of use of the Tobacco Warehouse wasn’t postponed until after the consultants hired by BBPC to consider alternatives to housing as revenue sources for the Park have issued their report.
Nancy Webster, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, a citizen organization that acts as an advocate for the Park, said that certain principles should apply to any development at the Tobacco Warehouse site. Among these was that a significant portion of the site’s use should be devoted to free public programs. Another was that nothing constructed within the existing walls should exceed their height. Both the LAVA and St. Ann’s proposals, in their present form, would violate the latter principle.
Representatives of community organizations from DUMBO, Fulton Ferry and Boerum Hill all decried the failure of BBPC to heed public concerns. Sandy Balboza, President of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, characterized the process as “rushing, rushing, rushing.” Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, asked why the Warehouse space shouldn’t be left as it is, for use as an outdoor venue for arts events and the like.
A number of representatives of arts organizations, including BAM president Karen Brooks Hopkins, spoke in favor of adaptive use of the Warehouse space as an arts venue, stressing its contribution to the development of Brooklyn and DUMBO as a lively center for the arts.
The Tobacco Warehouse issue will be on the agenda at tomorrow’s (Wednesday, November 17) meeting of the BBPC board, in the Blue Room at City Hall, Manhattan, beginning at approximately 1:45 p.m. The public is invited.